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19 Determinism and Ethics (1928)

I. Ethics, Positive or Normative

In maintaining that human behaviour is naturally conditioned, that there is no difference between the kind of causality which conduct exhibits and that exhibited in any other case, determinism implies that the distinctions commonly drawn between normative and positive science, and between freedom and necessity, are unreal. This is not to say, as is sometimes supposed, either that we can have such a knowledge of a person's character and environment as will enable us to predict his whole history, or that his environment alone determines what his history will be. It would be absurd to make any such claim in regard to minds, when we find, in dealing with other things, that both character and environment have to be taken into account — indeed, if this were not so, we should have in turn to consider the environment, and not the character, of the environing things, and so on indefinitely — and that, in the investigation of both, new and unexpected factors are continually being revealed. Such discovery, however, is possible only if we can say that in certain situations things of a particular sort behave in a certain way; and this kind of description, which implies neither “freedom” nor subordination to “standards”, is the only way of expressing knowledge of human or any other behaviour. It is no more possible to uphold a theory of different kinds of causality than consistently to believe in different kinds of truth or reality.

Those who distinguish positive from normative science contend that, while the former can tell us “what is”, it cannot tell us “what ought to be”. In order to know that, we require to invoke “norms”; standards or ideals to which things may conform more or less closely, but which are in some sense above these things. Such norms, it is said, appear in practice, where we must have ends to which our actions are directed. And while natural science can tell us as much about the connections of things as will enable us to select means to ends, it cannot determine the ends themselves. It supplies us, not with the absolute or categorical commands of morality, but only with hypothetical commands. Medical science, for example, can say that if we desire health, we should not deprive ourselves of fresh air, but we have to go beyond medical science to find out whether health ought to be desired. Now action which is determined by pursuit of an absolute end is thereby subject to a different sort of causality from that which prevails among things which have not ends; it is “free” action.




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The illogicality of this theory appears at once from its conception of the different sorts of reality which attach to norms and to the things which come under these norms, or from its attempt to distinguish values from facts. If the statement that something “ought to be” has any meaning, it can only be that the thing is, positively, obligatory; that this is a matter of fact. When such a statement is taken to be true, it can be dealt with by means of the ordinary logical mechanism of assertion and denial, proof and testing of hypotheses, definition and division — and in no other way. If we accept the term “obligatory”, then we shall say that certain things are or are not obligatory, just as we may say that they are or are not red. But if we set out to show that they “are” in different senses, we can do so only by using propositions in relation to which an exactly similar operation will be required. The consequent impossibility of making any definite assertion would be fatal to any science, “normative” or positive.

To get over this difficulty it has been suggested that all science is really normative, that “physical science” is only that part of Science which deals with means, and is thus a mere abstraction from the fundamental consideration of ends. But how is this abstraction possible? Suppose it were granted that medical science deals with means (a fairly plausible assumption), what are they, and how can it deal with them so as to be of any use to us in conduct? They must have characters of their own, they must exist, or they cannot be studied. And, however strenuously it may be asserted that in this existence they are only “relative”, it must be admitted that they absolutely lead to the desired ends, if we are to get any advantage from knowing them. And, finally, this end that they lead to must have certain physical characteristics, if physical science is to tell us how to get to it. It appears, then, that medical and ethical science may consider the same things, but will concentrate on different features of them. This is a commonplace of scientific investigation, and does not justify the attempt to take those features, in which ethics is specially interested, apart from the rest, and as an end to which the rest are a means. Incidentally, we should then have two sorts of “means to end” relation; fresh air would promote health in quite a different way from that in which health promoted goodness. Yet both relations would be determined in exactly the same way — by seeing what followed from certain conditions.

To avoid these inconsistencies we must maintain that it is possible to find physical occurrences without moral characteristics, and also to find physical occurrences with moral characteristics — which, of course, need have nothing to do with ends. If the value of anything were something above its occurrence, it would be unaffected by whether the thing occurred or not, and thus the occurrence itself would have no value, i.e., the value would not, strictly speaking, be of anything, and, being quite apart from events, certainly could not be chosen as an end. On the other hand if there is anything in the occurrence itself which could be regarded as its “conformity to a standard”, then this character is what we mean by the thing's value and we do not require to look beyond the thing itself


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in order to know an ethical truth. The alternative is that value is a mere label which might be arbitrarily attached to anything.

It will, of course, be said that nothing ever happens which quite comes up to our ideals. But, in the first place, this comparison could not be made unless our ideals were at least thought of as happening, i.e., as natural. And while we can and do think of goods which may occur in the future, the same applies to the subject-matter of any science. There is nothing logically peculiar about the future; what we think of as existing then, we think of as existing in the same sense as what exists now. And the characters we attribute to future occurrences are those which we have already found in similar occurrences. Allowing, then, that we can suppose that something better will exist than anything that has so far existed, we conceive its goodness to be of the same sort as that of things already in existence. But, in the second place, suppositions of this kind are for the most part false and useless; the imagined situation would very often not be particularly good; and if we say “better but not possible”, either we mean that it is not possible here but has occurred somewhere else and been observed to be better, or we are speaking about the non-existent and cannot significantly call “it” better or worse than what exists.

II. The “Moral Judgment”

This general position is not affected by the conception of ethics as the science of moral judgments; on the contrary, it shows that that conception is wrong. The suggestion is that the data of ethics are acts of approval or preferences, and that, while it is possible to deal positively with the conditions under which we come to approve of this or that, there remains the question of the “validity” of our approval, a question which cannot be treated in the same positive fashion. But when we consider what is meant by validity in this case, we find that it simply means the truth of the judgments we pass. Now, admittedly, the truth of a belief is a different matter from how we come to hold it, but the one question is just as positive as the other. In a moral judgment, as in any other, something is judged or asserted, i.e., some situation is said to have occurred; and moral judgments can be distinguished from others only in virtue of some peculiarity of these situations, such that we can describe them as moral situations. It would be absurd to say that, although such situations are asserted, ethics cannot take account of them but must begin with our approval; apart from them it would be impossible to say what “our approval” meant. No one but the most recalcitrant relativist would dream of saying that the data of physics are “physical judgments”, instead of physical facts, yet the one view is as reasonable as the other.

If, then, we all pass moral judgments, this means that we all suppose that there are moral facts, which, naturally, are the data of ethics. And if any such judgment is to be criticised, this must be done by means of other judgments of a similar kind, i.e., by showing that the supposed situation contradicts the true moral facts; otherwise we have a mere


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argumentum ad hominem. It is just through this sort of confusion between our attitudes to things and their own characters, that it has been supposed that ethics has to do with ends. It is possible for us to pursue something which is good,note but this could not be significantly said if goodness meant being pursued, or even being worthy to be pursued, by us. How we are affected by good things, and likewise how we know them, are questions which, though a moralist may be interested in them, cannot constitute ethical inquiry. Statements such as “This is good” are made, and they must be met or supported in just such ways as would be employed in dealing with the statement “This is sulphur”. G. E. Moore's theory of “intuition” simply amounts to saying that we find certain ethical propositions to be true; this does not mean, as is evident from other such findings, that they cannot be logically criticised or proved. Intuition, then, means observation, the direct acquisition of positive knowledge, allowing, of course, that people are as apt to make mistakes about moral facts as about physical facts in general.

The illogicality of the theory of the “moral judgment” becomes still clearer if we consider the detailed accounts that are given of approval of the right things, and consequent or concomitant pursuit of the true end. The passing of moral judgments is supposed to be the work of some peculiar faculty or mental power, which approves or disapproves of the ends chosen by other faculties or powers. The more rationalistic form of this theory is that there is a special moral faculty, conscience or sense of obligation, which issues its edicts, while particular inclinations or reflective faculties (like Butler's “self-love”) engage in the pursuit of ends which may or may not be in accordance with these edicts. Taking the more idealistic view, we have to think of the whole self as pursuing an ultimate end (“self-realisation”) in relation to which alone any special end is to be approved or even understood. In the latter case we have a more definite conception of control on the part of the central power; but even in the former case we can hardly think of approving as going on in the same mind without any effect on actual choice. So that while there is a prima facie distinction between the theory of a difference of kind between the approving faculty and the pursuing faculties, and that of a difference of degree between the whole self pursuing the good and functions of the self pursuing aspects or elements of the good, there is in both cases a conception of an ultimate judge and of subordinate functions which it criticises. Thus if we can rule out the supposition of a peculiarly critical faculty, we shall have disposed of both “conscience” and the “whole self” as candidates for that office.

Now I have no desire to deny that judgments are passed in the course of our activities and pursuits, of which they may even be said to be expressions. But it does not follow that these judgments are about the activities themselves, or that, since we judge in choosing, our judgment must take any such form as “I am choosing what I ought to choose”, or, by


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generalisation, “This ought to be chosen by anyone similarly situated”. There is nothing whatever, in the fact that we find things out in the course of our pursuits, to show that we find out anything about our pursuits, let alone that they have “norms”; and although in our active life we sometimes discover moral truths, we also discover other truths, in which, for the most part, we are much more interested.

The position is that a motivenote (i.e., whatever it is in us that acts; feelings, as I should contend) tends to bring about some state of affairs, or objective, and that, if it is not obstructed in its action, we believe (or, as I should say, the motive believes) that that state of affairs has occurred, i.e., a certain proposition is held to be true. If this terminology of motives and objectives be adopted, the position that I am criticising is that there is a peculiarly critical motive which judges all other motives by comparing their objectives with its, or that there is a total motive which dominates all partial motives by subordinating their objectives to its; the ultimate objective in both cases being “the good”. (Of course, by confusion between what a mental activity is and what it knows, the objective is wrongly called the motive, in many theories.) Whether “the good” is conceived as an abstract or as a concrete universal, the criticism of the theory of an ultimate objective and a fundamental motive is not greatly affected; and, as has been indicated, the two theories do not remain so distinct as they set out to be. They are simply different ways of trying to meet the difficulties involved in setting up a moral authority.

The fundamental objection to any theory which distinguishes a universal motive seeking a universal objective from particular motives seeking particular objectives is that all motives and objectives are particular. What we seek can only be some state of affairs. To call it a norm or an ideal is merely an excuse for leaving it indefinite. And, in the same way, aiming at the norm would have to be as much the work of an inclination as is sport or drunkenness. The ideal, if it is to be capable of being stated and thought about, must be specific, and thus that which pursues it will be only a part or “aspect” of the self. In short, the notion of a total or supreme good is incompatible with the recognition of ethical propositions, i.e., of situations in which good occurs.

The distinction between conscience and inclinations, as worked out, for example, by Butler, comes to something like this. An inclination pursues a certain thing, and it will pursue this thing irrespective of whether it is good or not; it is incapable of exercising criticism or judgment, since it has a “particular” aim. Conscience, on the other hand, works by means of judgment; it directs pursuit of things because they are good; or, judging that a thing is good — a proposition — it approves the inclination that pursues that thing — simply as a thing. But there is no logical distinction between things and propositions. Things are known only by their characters, and so the objective in each case is a complex


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situation, not any “simple" entity. Hence, any motive that can seek, can judge; and the reverse also holds, each motive being interested in situations of a certain sort. Our object-seeking activities (passions or inclinations) govern our judgments; and there is no logical basis for supposing the existence of a non-passionate judge or “rational” faculty, over and above our activities themselves, which is peculiarly critical of them, or to which they should be referred. The fact that judgments are made by passions does not mean, as already indicated, that they are about passions, and it does not mean that they are false. They can be shown to be false only by having other judgments, equally definite, brought against them.

It is, indeed, to be observed that there could be no conflict between conscience and inclinations, if their objectives were of different orders. But if all objectives are of the propositional order, having both particularity and universality in that a certain thing is taken to be of a certain sort, then we can have contradiction and conflict. In fact we can connect the interaction, the mutual opposition or support, of motives with the similar relations between the propositions which are believed. That is, we can explain reasoning without calling in “reason”. This reason, which is supposed to guide our activities or to subsume them in itself, is in a quite untenable position. For the guiding or subsuming is surely an activity of ours. So that either we have activities which reason cannot control, or it will guide its own guiding, subsume its own subsuming — and so on.

Criticism, then, is not a special function, but can be undertaken by any motives that can conflict. It is not only in moral science, as the history of rationalist thought amply shows, that the attempt has been made to set up authoritative principles. But, when we consider the actual procedure of science, we find that there is no such thing as abstract criticism, but only criticism in terms of certain tenets. Thus what we currently mean by “reasonable” is not transcending particularity but conforming to certain specific standards, viz., to the objectives of the motives which speak as “we” at a given time. And as reasonable means assisting, or at least not hindering, these objectives, unreasonable means obstructing or conflicting with them. The dominant motives are as particular as the subordinate ones, and it is easily seen from the facts of everyday life that it is not always the same motive that criticises. The attempt to get round these facts by means of the notion of a developing conscience or self makes the fatal admission that the motive in question is a particular one. Actually, then, we find that our motives change and that different motives are dominant at different times. And the theory of a moral authority is simply an attempt to induce conformity to the motives dominant in certain minds, by elevating them to a transempirical level. This attempt owes some of its success to the tendency to seek safety and certainty, which is also, of course, a particular motive with a definite history.




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III. The Facts of the “Moral Life”

The above criticism of the normative or authoritarian theory shows to some extent what account a positive theory will give of what are called the facts of the moral life, but some further statement and clarification of the positive issues is required. The facts referred to are most specifically those of choice, deliberation, responsibility and exhortation, or, more generally, inducement, to goodness. And, as already indicated, the consideration of them must be based on the fact that we and others have various motives, and that these motives interact and influence one another in a variety of ways.

Simple choice is simply object-finding, i.e., the finding by a motive of an object whereby it gains outlet or expression. This is the process of satisfaction of desire. We are to think of the motive as being in a state of tension, which ceases when the object is achieved. This is the condition of knowledge in general; what we know is what solves our problems or eases our minds. But the case is not always so simple; there may be no immediate solution, and we may go through a process of deliberation, which is regarded as the distinguishing-mark of “moral” choice. Now deliberation arises from a certain opposition of motives. And these opposed motives, in struggling to find outlet, excite other motives which assist them, until one set overcomes the other and acts.note Or, again, certain parts of the opposed motives may find common outlet, while other parts are repressed. In either case we have the opposition of two complex tendencies, and a final movement arising from some solution of the opposition. The situation is comparable to that represented by a chemical equation, where the interaction of two compounds results in the formation of a new substance and, in general, of a certain “residue”. (This, incidentally, is the true “mental chemistry”, and not any theory of derivation from elements.) The various “ideas” called up in the course of deliberation are the objectives of the motives that rise to the assistance of the original motives, but it is these motives themselves, in conjunction with the original ones, that enable a certain action to take place; the “ideas” are not in any sense causes of the action. Deliberation, then, exemplifies the conflict and the complication of motives in the course of human activity. There is no pure reason here, no total self or ultimate end.

In exhortation and inducement we have a similar situation, where some of the conflicting and assisting motives are in one mind and some in another. It may, of course, be said that the motives of the one person cause some of the other's motives to become active, and that the latter then goes through a process of deliberation, the point of difference from the previous case being that he has been induced to deliberate. But even this explanation admits of interaction between different persons' motives as well as among a single person's. The general position is, then, that we wish another person to act in a certain way, which we may or may not


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call “good”. And apart from the possibility of our seeking to show our power over him, the point will be that the objective we prescribe for him is one of our own, that it satisfies one of our motives. Now what we appeal to or exert influence on in him may be the same motive, so that our action consists in producing a situation in which it is free to act; the conveying of information being a case in point. Or it may be a different motive, in which case we may procure conformity but not the same sort of act as we should perform in pursuing the objective in question. And thus his objective is also different (for example, he may be seeking to avoid unpleasantness), though similar to ours in certain respects. Appeals to persons to be moral in their own interests illustrate this confusion of motives.

The two extremes, then, between which all types of exhortation and inducement are to be found are compulsion and assistance between similar motives in different persons. Accepting McDougall's theory, in respect of the latter, that the activity of a given motive in one person may “sympathetically induce” the operation of the same motive in another, we have to add that this may happen not merely when the motive is dormant or has been temporarily overcome by other motives, but also when it has not previously been active; so that all the varieties of education are accounted for. But it has particularly to be noted that this theory applies to motives of any sort. We have not discovered any method of inducement peculiar to good motives; though it may be maintained that in all other cases there is an element of compulsion. However this may be, it has been found possible to give a positive description of the processes without taking goodness into account, and it remains possible that goodness may be discovered as a positive feature of some of them.

All these methods of influence are likewise to be found in operation among the different motives of a single mind. It is on this basis that a positive account of responsibility is to be given. Responsibility is not the charge that is put upon reason to control inclinations, or on the self to be itself. It is the fact that all our actions arise from motives which we have, and which are in some interactive relation with the motives speaking as “we”, even when they are disclaimed by the latter. Of course, they interact with all sorts of things, including other people's minds. But they are in peculiar relations to the other processes which belong to the same mind. Now clearly, if we avoid the confusion between what a thing is and what it knows, we cannot accept the statement, “I did not know I was doing this”, as a justification for the conclusion, “It was not I who did this”. To put it otherwise, our motives are complex, and so are our objectives; so that what we vaguely or indirectly pursue has to be taken along with what we directly and definitely pursue; we are equally responsible for both. “Repression” is characteristic of the refusal to accept responsibility; it is the forcing of a motive to find an outlet which “we”, the repressing motives, will not observe. But recognition by us cannot be the test of responsibility; we should, in fact, commonly be said to be responsible for this recognition itself, though we might not recognise it.


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So that the term “responsibility” really stands for such relations as hold between any two activities of one mind.

Similarly, we may speak of effort or endeavour, without requiring to add anything about its being “moral”, as characteristic of a motive struggling against obstructions. We have, in short, to think of our motives as striving to find outlet, of various tendencies in mind. But this is just as positive a conception as pressure in physics. The main point is the treatment of our various motives as “passions” (that is, as having qualities of their own and not merely relations) and as complex, as opposed to the theory of a variety of simple inclinations which cannot undergo mixture and separation, but pursue different individual objects, and of simple reason which can control them all because it has a universal and single aim, “the good”. In place of this scheme of an “identity-motive” and “difference-motives”, actual experience presents us with differentiation and integration, variation and adjustment, complication and development. In brief, the interaction of complex motives will account for all the facts of “moral psychology”.

IV. Good and Bad Activities

If we take the facts which have been considered as constituting the field of ethics, it will appear that the logic of moral events is the same as that of any other events. But even if moral theory has something further to consider than the facts referred to, the natural assumption, in view of what has been said, will be that it differs from psychological theory, not in method, but only in paying special attention to certain things. This will be obviously so, if we find that goodness is a character of certain motives or mental activities. These will be the special object of ethical study, and it will be primarily concerned with what these are and what characters they display, and only subsequently with how they are produced or hindered. It has been shown that there is no room for the assumption of some ideal to which deliberation and inducement lead on, since these processes simply indicate the interaction of specific motives having specific objectives.

The crucial question is whether it is objectives or motives that are to be regarded as good or bad. Now those who take the former view always regard the goodness or badness of objectives as connected with our pursuit of them. It would thus appear that the terms correspond to the arbitrary “reasonable” and “unreasonable” that we have already considered. The question of the character of the objectives themselves will be the important one. Now some objectives are mental and some are not, but it is commonly supposed that goodness and badness have some special connection with mind. It appears to me that objectives are generally called “good” only by confusion with the goodness of the motives which pursue them. Thus the facts which induce Moore to call beauty good and many thinkers to say the same of truth, seem to me to be accounted for by taking the love of beauty and the love of truth as good. And the


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unjustified assumption that what a motive pursues must be felt to be better than it, explains these errors. I consider, therefore, that it is the operations of certain motives that are properly called good or bad. By taking this view we are in a position to avoid the ethical dualism of many theories, in which “goodness” is attributed alike to motives and to objectives, but really in different senses. And we are prepared to find that what goods aim at is ethically much more important than what aims at them.

In speaking of the operation of a motive, we require to make a distinction. We may think of its activity as what has been described as “finding outlet”, a release of tension taking place when some object is achieved. Or we may consider it as active, when it is not in a state of tension, but is simply occurring within the mind; contributing, in the current terminology, to “feeling-tone”. It may be that there is always some degree of tension, if the motive is present at all, and that at other times we simply have a tendency, i.e., that the processes then present in the mind are of such a character that, when certain circumstances arise, the motive will again appear. In any case it would seem that it is when they are in a state of tension that motives assist or resist one another, and also that it is in such cases of intense activity that goodness is to be found. Taking assistance, then, as meaning that a certain motive brings about circumstances in which another will act, resistance that it brings about circumstances which prevent another from acting, and recognising that these relations are facts of experience, we may consider the view that assistance is a mark of good motives, and resistance of bad motives.

This is substantially the view put forward by Socrates in Republic, I. He makes it clear, of course, that this distinction is not to be taken as a simple and final criterion, by pointing out that, while goods assist one another, they oppose bads; whereas bads oppose both goods and one another. There is no question, then, of founding ethics on abstract attitudes of assistance and resistance (although as Socrates develops the argument, this point is considerably obscured), any more than on abstract attitudes of altruism and egoism. The position may be expressed by saying that a good motive will always assist another of the same kind, so that that particular good can be communicated to an indefinite extent within the field of human activities. Love of truth, for example, will indefinitely communicate the spirit of discovery, and will assist the development and operation of that spirit whenever it appears and with whatever materials it may deal; a true investigator in any field will always encourage investigation in that or any other field. We do not, of course, define goodness by means of that relation, but if we decide, as I think we may, that it is common and peculiar to goods, then we can employ it as a criterion in particular cases. The same facts will show that a good motive will sustain itself in a particular mind by providing the materials for its continued operation, as one discovery leads on to another and the solution of one problem to the formulation of a new problem.

Bad motives, on the other hand, can never get rid of an element of resistance and repression, and, though they may co-operate to a certain


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limited extent, will eventually be found in opposition, and will always involve a certain friction. Hate, it may be said, breeds hate; but it also fights with hate and tries to destroy it, and in the individual it exhausts itself. So ignorance, though it may breed ignorance, fights with ignorance, and obscurantism defeats its own end. The degree of co-operation possible to motives which are not good is represented in the State sketched by Glaucon in Republic, II. Here the assistance is of an external or extrinsic sort, the utilisation of common means to diverse ends, as contrasted with participation in common activities in which the distinction between means and ends is unimportant. We note in the compromise referred to (which is, of course, a fact of common experience) the absence of a common spirit and the recurrence of friction, and also, as Glaucon points out, the element of repression in that some demands are given up in order that others may have a sure satisfaction.

That such a state of affairs occurs is not to say that it is not bad. On the other hand, though we may never find a mind or a community which is wholly free from resistance and repression, which, as we say, is “given up” to good activities, this will not prevent us from recognising particular goods and the assistance among them. This assistance, along with the opposition between evils, is no ground for optimism. We have to take account of the conditions of the original appearance of goods and evils, we have to remember that “it is hard to become good”, and that it is possible for goods to be simply annihilated by evils or by natural conditions generally. But the fact that a good once established both communicates itself and assists other goods, as scientific discovery assists artistic appreciation and creation, is not merely a reason for the continuance of the struggle against evils; it is itself the continuation of the struggle.

We may further illustrate the operation of assistance by reference to the process described by Freud as “transference”. Freud is referring primarily to “pathological” cases, but we may consider the matter more broadly. What occurs in transference is that one person, e.g., the patient, makes use of the powers of mind of another person, e.g., the analyst; “identifies” himself with the latter, adopts his views and his ways of dealing with situations. In this way the patient's previously pent-up motives find outlet. But the same may take place within one person's mind, when a conflict is resolved and a new type of activity emerges by the aid of certain abiding motives or sentiments. This is the process of “sublimation”, where one motive finds for another a means of expression, provides it with a language, puts its own “ideas” before it as objectives. This is also the process of education. It may be argued, then, that all good motives have this power of transference or conversion, whereby from hitherto dissociated material a new motive is formed which can co-operate with the good motive. Goodness is associative, evil is dissociative; goods have a common language, evils have not. And since, where there is division, each of the opposing forces finds some sort of outlet, it is just


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under such conditions that we get dualistic ethical systems, like that of “natural” and “moral” good, interest and duty.

V. The Fraud of Moralism

Accepting this view, we should regard “obligation” as signifying not merely a false theory of ethics, but also evil motives. Moralism, the doctrine of conscience and “moral necessity”, exemplifies the natural causality of repressing motives. There are acts which are performed under a sense of obligation, but what they exhibit is not communication but compulsion. Freud has informed us of the elaborate performances which compulsion-neurotics feel bound to go through. They are simply “the thing to do”; they are “right” but not good, forced, not spontaneous. The spontaneous action of a motive seeking its objective cannot be induced by compulsion. Compulsion can only induce conformity. And the motives which will incline a man to conform, to do a thing because he is obliged, are, speaking generally, fear and that desire for self-abasement which, in sexual theory, is called “masochism”.

The development of motives has been traced to action in the same or in another person's mind. Good motives may be said more specifically to arise through sympathetic induction, or through the spontaneous development of a person's natural capacities. There are certain good motives which we do not expect to find in children, and which appear “as they grow older”. That is to say, they are not definitely results of education, except in so far as the child may be said to educate himself. But it is for the most part impossible to lay down exact limits of the operation of these two factors; each may be taken to operate in some degree in the development of all good motives. Compulsion, on the other hand, has no part in this process, except as one of the obstructions by reaction against which capacities may develop.

It may be said, then, that the appeal addressed to a person in terms of obligation is either unnecessary, since, if he has the appropriate motive, it will require no external inducement to seek its objective, or useless, since, if he has not the motive, the type of action produced must differ from that commanded. However it may appear to the moraliser, his appeals are prompted by particular motives in his own mind and take effect on particular motives in the other person's mind. It has been admitted that, by means of assistance and transference, new motives may be generated, but this is through natural operations on the motives already present. When one person has interrelated activities A, B and C, and lives in intimate relation with a person who has the activities A and B, the latter will develop C, if he is capable of doing so. In all these cases we have perfectly natural action, moralistic or obligatory action being one particular case. But, since people have different capacities, there is no question of laying down rules for men. The only practical question is what goods a particular person can realise, what good motives can be induced in him. This induction or communication does not require to be


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commanded, since good motives will persistently communicate themselves; and, similarly, response cannot be commanded.

We see, then, how a positive ethics is possible; we see that motives act in accordance with their nature, that communication occurs, and that the study of communicating and non-communicating motives must be thoroughly deterministic. Vague notions of ideals are simply covers for that domination which is the real object of the exponents of “the moral law”. The safeguarding of morality, the discovery of “incentives” to goodness, are, as expressions of ethical dualism or “heteronomy”, unscientific, and, as repressive operations, bad.

There is, in fact, no moral safeguard. Goodness is supported by those good activities already in existence, which encourage the development of other good activities. But in so doing they meet with obstructions, and there is nothing in the nature of things to show that good will overcome evil. Why, then, should we be moral? What inducement to goodness have we? None, except those good motives which we possess and which operate naturally in relation to circumstances — which, of course, they, like all other things, are capable of altering. The ends, by which they are supposed to be dominated, are what they know about their surroundings, and, knowing, affect. The theory of “ideals”, like that of “ideas”, rests on failure to observe that what we are commonly said to “have in mind” in any situation is some external fact, and that what we really have in mind are certain motives which act “automatically”; and that the interaction of our motives with one another and with outside things is what determines all our actions and whether good or evil will come about.

It is particularly to be noted that the motive which leads us to have an ethical theory is not of primary importance to the discussion of ethical theory. We may certainly consider whether a motive of this kind is good or not, but this implies a direct consideration of good and bad situations. And, in considering the good activities of a person, we are not bound to consider whether he has an ethical theory or not. People in general do not think very much about the goodness of their activities. They are simply to be found trying to make discoveries or to produce works of art, exhibiting love or courage, or, on the other hand, imposing obligations on themselves or others, because they are made that way, i.e., because their character, in relation to their history, has so developed. And these are the conditions, and not any metaphysical “freedom”, on which, if at all, further development is possible.

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